Apologetic Tracts Catholic beliefs vs Jehovah Witnesses beliefs

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Catholic beliefs vs.
Jehovah Witness beliefs

What do Jehovah Witnesses believe?

Many people have had Jehovah Witnesses come to their homes to pass out their publication “The Watch Tower” and then to share their beliefs.  Many Catholics are sometimes confused because their own faith formation may have been limited.  I will attempt to briefly identify some of the major differences between our beliefs as Catholics and those held by those professed to be Jehovah Witnesses.  These are the significant ones.

As Catholics we believe that there is One God who is triune in person: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each a distinct person, but equal.  While we believe in the Trinity, we do not believe in three gods.

A Jehovah Witness believes in One God whom they identify as Jehovah, (which is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word Yahweh).  God, for them, is not all-knowing or present everywhere as we believe.

They believe that God created Michael the Archangel (inferior to God) and, through him, later created the rest of creation.  At a point in time, Michael became man and was named Jesus. He was sinless and obedient to God.  He died for the sins of mankind. When he was raised from the dead, only his spirit rose, not his body.  As such, he resumed his identity as Michael the Archangel.

In contrast, we believe as Catholics that Jesus is True God and True Man.  We believe that the Eternal Son of the Father, the Word, who is equal to the Father and the Spirit, was incarnate and became man, who is named Jesus.  In so far as He is God, Jesus is equal to the Father.  “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30) In so far as He is man and a creature, He is inferior to the Father.”  The Father is greater than I.” (Jn 14:28).  We further profess that Jesus rose from the dead in a glorified body and is in heaven as such.

They hold that the Holy Spirit is God’s active force in the world rather than God, equal to the Father and the Son.  We believe that he is a person, not a force or power.

Their bible is called The New World Translation (NWT).  It contains 66 books in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It follows the same list found in Protestant Bibles.  As Catholics, we have seven additional books which we hold as part of Divine Revelation. 

A comparison of the NWT and the New American Bible (NAB) (Catholic) shows that their scholars transliterated and altered passages that were problematic to their beliefs.  It would be a revisionist version of the Scriptures.  (Four of the five revisionists never studied the biblical languages and the fifth had a limited knowledge of non-biblical Greek.  Hardly credentials for a scholarly effort).  For instance, in the Gospel of John 1:1 the NAB reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  The same verse in the NWT says:”…the Word was a god.”  This fits their belief that Jesus is a god but not God.

Some of the ways a Witness uses the Bible texts is to quote verses that support their beliefs, without seeing the citation in its context or in relationship to other verses in the Scriptures which contradict their beliefs.  One’s use or interpretation may be wrong but the Word of God cannot contradict itself.

As Catholics, we believe that there are seven sacraments instituted by Christ as signs of God’s love for us.  In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” (CCC 1131)  The seven sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders.

The Jehovah Witnesses believe that there are two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  These are symbolic acts.  A person is baptized at a reasonable age, after making a conscious decision to become a Witness and be devoted to God.  Only full immersion is considered to be a true baptism.

As Catholics, we believe that a person should be baptized as soon as possible after birth so as to be free of Original Sin (separation from God) and brought into the full life of God as an adopted son or daughter.  Something radically happens to the person who is baptized. We also believe that a person can be baptized by immersion, sprinkling or pouring of the water over the head.  We believe that a person is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord’s Supper is celebrated by Witnesses only once each year at the time of the Passover.  The bread and wine are symbols of Christ, which only those who claim to be the “anointed” eat and drink.

We celebrate the Lord’s Supper daily and are called to participate in it every Sunday.  We believe that bread and wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus, become Jesus’ true body and blood.  It is not a symbol for us but the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus our Lord and God. Our faith is not in a symbol but in the reality of the person, now present.

The Priesthood
All Witnesses are priests.  They have no separate class, except their elders and those who are anointed.  They refer to the passage in Matthew’s Gospel: “As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” (Mt 23: 8-10)  If they are true to this, then they cannot call even their own human begetter, father.  Yet, the Fourth Commandment of God states we are to honor one’s father and mother.  If one can’t call them father, how can they fully honor them as such?

While citing the passage from Matthew’s Gospel, they fail to reconcile it with other passages in the Scriptures.  “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (1 Cor 4:15)  In other passages Paul refers to Timothy as his son. Would Timothy be at fault if he called Paul, my father, in the spiritual sense?

Both Catholics and Jehovah Witnesses believe that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  Both believe that salvation is a gift from God.  At the same time we believe that we are to respond to the gift of God by our lives and works.  They believe that preaching to others and becoming part of the Witnesses is the way to salvation.

They believe that the souls of the wicked when they die will be totally destroyed.  For them, the soul is not immortal (will live forever).  Of those who will be saved, a select few (the little flock), numbering 144,000 will go to heaven and be with God as gods.  The rest of the witnesses (the great crowd or the other sheep) will enjoy full happiness on earth for eternity.

Hell is not a place for those who died in sin. Rather it is the place of the dead.  It is not a place of punishment.  Finally, they believe that men will have a second chance after death to be saved.

As Catholics we believe that at death, if we are in union with God but not fully perfected in love, we will go to a state of purification (Purgatory) before entering the full life with God.  Heaven is not limited to only 144,000, but is enjoyed by the countless saints who died in Christ and now reign with Christ eternally.  We also believe in Hell as an everlasting place of damnation and punishment for those who die in the state of alienation from God.

“Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Mt 25:41, 46)  The wicked are obviously not annihilated if they go to eternal punishment. 

Return of Christ
Jehovah Witnesses teach that Jesus came back invisibly in 1914 prior to the start of WW I and has already established his kingdom. They believe that the end of the world is imminent.

As Catholics, we believe in the second coming of Jesus, but we don’t know the exact time or place. People have predicted that coming from the first century till now, actually naming the exact date and year.  Each of these predictions has proven false.  As a result our focus is not to know what is only known to the Father but to live in such a way that if Jesus came today, we would be ready.

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